George Hernandez Jr. (B.A. ’74), J.D.
President and CEO, University Health System
St. Mary’s University Trustee
by Alex Z. Salinas (B.A. ’11, M.A. ’19)
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your personal life?
A: One of the wonderful traits of being human is our ability to adapt rapidly to a changing environment. We do this by our ability to communicate, socialize and plan with others to achieve common goals. The pandemic has limited our personal interactions and social outlets because of its global nature. So, like many others, my personal life centers on the immediate family. The most difficult personal issue has been the inability to go to Mass regularly.
Q: How has the pandemic impacted your professional life?
A: Like other health care workers, we have had to address the pandemic directly. Thus, our professional lives are busier than ever. I can say that all the health systems in San Antonio have done an outstanding job in working together, sharing COVID-19 containment strategies and caring for persons with COVID-19. This is classic San Antonio — we all work well together even if we’re competitors.
That said, the biggest challenge we face is a surge of COVID-19 patients, which outstrips our hospitals’ resources. So, we work on messaging aimed at convincing the public that good prevention practices, like face masks, social distancing and proper hand-washing are essential.
Q: How do you feel your St. Mary’s education helped prepare you for your leadership role during this uncertain time?
A: Life is always uncertain, so COVID-19 did not create uncertainty but additional complexity instead. One of the great benefits of a liberal arts education is its emphasis on a broad education in a variety of core disciplines that develop a wide range of skills. The role of a CEO requires a variety of skills to help juggle issues and eventually resolve them. The best analogy I have for a CEO is that of a symphony conductor.
You don’t play an orchestra instrument, but how you move your baton makes a big difference in whether your organization plays great music.